LBB Film Club in association withLBB
LBB Film Club: The Charge
London, UK
Last year, Lester Jones started writing a film about isolation – he had no idea that the world would be on lockdown, practising social isolation upon its release
The pent up frustration, the tension, the barely perceptible ripple of muscular contraction. Lester Jones has captured, and even articulated, something many of us are feeling right now though we may struggle to express it ourselves. His new short film ‘The Charge’ is a visual poem that explores the theme of isolation. There could be no better film to release as people around the world suddenly struggle with prolonged lockdown.

The curious thing is, Lester actually started to write the film last year and shot the footage around Sydney long before Covid-19 had wrapped its tentacles around the world. The short now carries an unexpected poignancy. But what makes it such a cathartic watch is that – as hinted at in the films title ‘The Charge’ – it climaxes with a visceral catharsis.

LBB’s Laura Swinton spoke to Lester about his well-timed film. 

LBB> What inspired the film in the first place?
Lester> Well, alongside my commercial work I am hugely passionate about making personal projects as a chance to really stretch those creative muscles.  Last year a team of friends and I created a film called The One which was released for International Women’s Day which received great acclaim, and it inspired me to create something bigger and bolder.

About a year ago I started writing an idea for a film about isolation and solitude, with the film poetically exploring how a sense of imposed containment can inspire us to group together and break free. I had no idea what state the world would be in when we released it, but today, I am incredibly proud to share The Charge and it’s themes seem incredibly relevant.

LBB> And during the writing and development phase, how did you go about developing the imagery within the film?
Lester> It came from three places.  First of all, I am a big fan of the Arctic Monkeys, and when they released their album Tranquility Base Hotel and Casino last year I was listening to a lot of interviews with Alex Turner who was discussing films that had inspired his creative process.  He kept mentioning the French Crime Noir Director Jean-Pierre Melville and from that I spent time watching Le Samurai and Le Circle Rouge, and loved how minimalist they were in their approach.

From here, the locations I found leant themselves to shooting in a really measured style to add to the sense of containment, before the final piece of the puzzle which was the input of my friend and cinematographer Campbell Brown who took it all to the next level with his ideas.

LBB> There's a really raw masculinity about the film - was that something you wanted to consciously explore?
Lester> Yes.  I wanted to explore a really visceral human feel and quality, and a part of the early inspiration behind this project was the notion of being a young man, contained, and held.  All that energy and hope captive and held, unable to be released despite them wanting to express it to the world.

LBB> Love the texture of the film - why did you decide to shoot on 16mm and how did you work with Campbell to develop the aesthetics of the film?
Lester> Campbell and I like to shoot on film as much as possible, and for a project like this where such a raw, human, visceral feel was wanted it seemed like an easy choice.  We took the format and pushed it as far as we could with modern parameters, mounting the Arri 416 on Movi's, steadicams, rickshaws, to really fuse traditional with modern approaches.  The lighting and then the colouring were also key, which Mat our gaffer helped devise before Fergus Rotherham took it even further in the grade.

LBB> You shot across Sydney - what are some of the locations that we see in the film? 
Lester> A disused gaol is where we start the film and we shot a lot of the film here in the cell blocks, courtyards, and on-site chapel.  We end up on a large open expanse in Kurnell, south of Sydney airport for the finale.  In between, we have the flash cuts of the wild horse - the wild animal in the protagonist’s mind that he wants to set free, which we shot at a private facility with a very kind horse breeder and one of her star horses.

LBB> What were your highlights from the shoot?
Lester> I think being able to work with such talented people, many of which are good mates and friends of mine.  Missing being part of a team (and film making is a team sport) is something that has been heightened now that we are all under isolation.

LBB> And, of course, today the film takes on a whole new significance with the Covid-19 crisis - I want to ask two things. One, what's it been like, having explored this topic on film to see a third of the world go into lockdown and isolation? And secondly, if you were to consider a follow up, has the crisis brought up any other interesting angles about isolation that you'd find interesting to explore?
Lester> Well, to answer the first part of the question, it’s felt quite surreal.  I obviously wish the world was a very different place right now, but I am encouraged by how many people are looking into what we are going through in the current time as a positive experience, and I hope the film can help echo themes of not feeling alone or working with others to reach a common goal.

Secondly, I don’t have any firm ideas for a follow up to this theme.  I spent the start of this year working on a fascinating feature doco/bio pic, which explores whether society dictates the path our life takes.  That should be out later this year.  I am also currently writing up concepts for music videos and other narrative pieces in other spaces.  I think, I, like most people will be ready to have some time away from isolation once this all clears.  

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